Close up of vegetables in a white bowl, with someone about to eat them

Gut health information has exploded in recent years, thanks to an increase in research on the gut microbiome. Through emerging evidence, we are beginning to understand the role that this amazing ecosystem plays in the development of many health conditions, from mood to inflammation.

Our gut bacteria can even determine whether we develop irritable bowel syndrome. Pretty amazing.

What is the gut microbiome?

The term microbiome refers to the genetic material of the trillions of microorganisms that live on, and in us. Consider our gut microbiome as an internal garden, where it relies on lots of different organisms to live together.

Of all the organisms present, bacteria is the most abundant in out gut. Therefore, the types of bacteria will determine the overall impact on health.

What can influence the gut microbiome?

  • Birth mode – natural delivery vs caesarean section
  • Breastfeeding or formula feeding
  • Anti-biotics
  • Some medications
  • Stressful events
  • External environment, pollution
  • Food eaten
  • Viruses and parasites
Introducing the human gut microbiome – Canadian Digestive Health Foundation via YouTube

How to have a healthy gut?

Our gut bacteria is fully developed by age three. For this reason, an early emphasis on fibre-rich foods and variety of plant-based foods is critical in ensuring a diverse microbiome in children. The type of food that we eat is also important.

Top three tips for a a healthy gut

  1. Eat widely – microorganisms are found in abundance in plant based foods. Try to include seeds, nuts, fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole-grains in your diet everyday. Dietary fibre contained in these foods feed the bacteria. The more variety, the better the meal for your gut.
  2. Manage stress – chronic stress is not good for some strains of bacteria, which can allow others to thrive. This can lead to an imbalance and upset the gut-brain-axis. Try to find activities that keep you (and your gut) calm.
  3. Monitor intake of sweetened soft drinks and artificial sweeteners: studies have shown a detrimental affect on gut health when consumed frequently.